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  • Cited by 9
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

3 - The International Organization for Standardization as a global governor: a club theory perspective


This chapter examines the emergence of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as global governor in the area of international product and management systems standardization. We outline a novel theoretical approach rooted in the theory of clubs (Buchanan 1965; Cornes and Sandler 1996; Prakash and Potoski 2006b) that analytically connects actors (governors) with institutions (governance systems). Unlike much of the regime literature, which tends to focus on governance systems established to mitigate international governance failures, this volume focuses on actors who establish, monitor, and enforce these rules. After all, given the lack of a global sovereign, it is not clear which actors govern at the international level, how, and with what consequences. As the introductory chapter notes, scholars often discuss global governance issues in passive voice, treating governance as a structure or a process. These discussions are not sufficiently agentic in that it is not clear how and why specific actors are involved in the unfolding of governance processes and the establishment, monitoring, and enforcement of governance systems.

Both governments and nongovernmental actors supply governance systems. While we illustrate our club theory approach in the context of a nongovernmental governor – the International Organization for Standardization and a specific governance system it has created, ISO 14001 – our perspective is sufficiently general to be employed to study intergovernmental as well as hybrid governors – an important issue given that we seldom find policy monopolies in policy domains.